Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Safe Patient Handling: Preventing MS Disorders in Nursing Homes

Disabling Injuries

Nurses and other healthcare workers face many safety and health hazards in their work environments. In fact, healthcare workers experience some of the highest rates of non-fatal occupational injuries and illnesses of any industry sector.

In 2012, injuries and illnesses reported for nursing and residential care workers were significantly higher than those in construction, and 2-3 times higher than in retail or manufacturing. Almost half of the injuries and illnesses reported for nurses and nursing support staff were musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). Rates of MSDs for nursing assistants (225.8) were almost four times as high as the average for all workers (37.8).

MSDs affect the muscles, nerves and tendons. Work-related MSDs (including those of the neck, upper extremities and low back) are a leading cause of lost workday injuries and illnesses for healthcare and social assistance workers, particularly in nursing homes and residential care facilities. Examples of MSDs include muscle strains and low back injuries, rotator cuff injuries (shoulder problems), and tendinitis.

Research has identified that the risk factors for MSDs include the repeated and forceful movements associated with patient care such as lifting, transferring, and repositioning.

Work-related MSDs can be prevented. Safe patient handling programs employ the use of mechanical equipment and other elements to reduce the number and severity of work-related MSDs.

Benefits of Safe Patient Handling

Safe patient handling programs reduce the risk of injury for both healthcare workers and patients while improving the quality of patient care. Use of lifting equipment is essential to a successful safe patient handling program and has been shown to reduce exposure to manual lifting injuries by up to 95%.

In addition to reducing healthcare worker injuries and related lost work time, safe patient handling programs have other benefits, including:
  • More satisfying work environment and professional status;
  • Improved nursing recruitment and retention;
  • Increased patient satisfaction and comfort;
  • Decreased patient falls and pressure ulcers; and
  • Reduced costs associated with injuries.

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